Category Archives: Knitting Techniques

WIP Wednesday – To Swatch or Not Swatch, That is the Question

I honestly don’t know of any knitter that says they love to do a swatch to check his or her gauge. Personally, I prefer to jump right in, but know I cannot if I am making a garment or accessory that must fit properly. Scarves, afghans, dishcloths and anything else that you make that can be an inch or more bigger or smaller than the pattern reads most of the time end up being ok. But try and put on a sweater after weeks (or months) of knitting and realize it is too big or small due to gauge..this doesn’t end well.

First of all, check the pattern for the correct weight/type of yarn. It stands to reason worsted weight will knit up larger than fingering or sock yarn. Next, use the size needle the pattern calls for – unless you are an experienced knitter than knows you knit tighter/looser, But if you are, you already know all of this anyway!

Your pattern will tell you how many stitches and rows per inch you need to get the proper gauge so your finished garment will fit. The mystery KAL I am making now has a gauge of “8 sts and 13 rows = 2” in stockinette stitch. So the swatch I knit has to be at least a few, if not more, stitches and rows than 8 stitches, 13 rows. Personally, I like to make a nice little square of stockinette so that I can measure smack dab in the middle to make sure the stitches aren’t pulled or rolling along the sides as stockinette will do.


So I cast on 20 stitches with size 9 needles and worsted wt yarn that the pattern called for. I knit until I had a perfect square. Sometimes I don’t but this time I figured I’d make 2 of the little purple squares, sew them together and stuff them for a perfect doll sized pillow for my cousin’s little girl. She loves purple. 🙂

Using a contrasting yarn, I make a running stitch up 13 rows (gauge from the pattern), then use 3 more bits of contrasting yarn to run along 8 stitches at the top and bottom of the 13 row mark, then another along the end of the 8 stitches to make a box in the middle that should measure 2 inches. If it does, all is well. If not – back to the swatching board. Lucky for me this one was right on target

If the gauge is too small, I need to use a larger needle, too big I need to use a smaller needle because I don’t want to use a different weight yarn. There are tons of websites that explain gauge much better than I do, just google “knitting gauge” and you’ll get instructions, video and one of them will help you learn how to swatch like a pro. I like this one:

Now that I’ve preached the importance of swatching, I’ll catch you up on works in progress. Donita’s next baby blanket is barely begun, but it won’t take long to complete.

Donita blanket #3

I will be starting the Mystery KAL from Melody’s Makings on Ravelry since my swatch is done. 🙂 And since I am leaving for a few days of vacation I am either going to make the second black sock, which is boring but will be used this winter more than the fancier socks in crazy colors that I would rather knit. Practicality may or may not win out, I’ll let you know when I get back.


Filed under baby blanket, blanket, Crafts, Crocheting, Knitting, Knitting Techniques, WIP Wednesday, yarn

Master’s Monday finally and again

I have no excuse for not posting for way to long. This will be short and sweet.

As for the Master’s program, I have done zip, zilch, nada. If thinking about it counts as progress, I am in! Hopefully next week I’ll have a teeny bit of progress to report.

While I have your attention, I’ll update you on my WIP and the list of this years projects.

helix scarf on Indy

My helix scarf out of the Bison yarn is done. Indy is graciously modeling it.

Purple socks 1 almost done

And 1 of the purple socks is done, the second should be done by the weekend because I only have the ribbing to finish. I love using the magic loop method so I don’t have second sock syndrome which often plagues my projects. Check out Liat Gat website with the instructions and patterns. ( I like to use 4 needles to make the cuffs because they go quicker for me that way.

One of the baby blankets for baby CJ is complete and was done in time for the baby shower last week.


I liked the pattern for CJ’s blanket so much that I am going to make it again for the other baby shower scheduled for June. This time I am going to use cream and royal blue and adjust the pattern so it is only 36 inches wide instead of 40. Overall, I am looking forward to making it because it works up so cute with the shells looking like tiny hearts.

I’ve ordered some beautiful yarn from Maluhia Farm.( I’ll post a picture when it arrives.

I tried to purchase yarn while in Hawaii, but my timing was bad so I ordered from Jan online. As soon as it arrives, I’ll make up my mind as to what it will be used for . I am leaning toward a cowl. maybe socks,  or a scarf.

How are your projects coming along this year?


Filed under Crocheting, Hawaii, Knitting, Knitting Techniques, Ravelry, TKGA Master's Program, Uncategorized

Masters Monday #3

I made my first swatch for the TKGA Master’s program this weekend. I chose to make swatch number 3 first because, quite frankly, it is the easiest one. It is a small, 4.5 inch seed stitch swatch. I am familiar with the stitch, have used it many times to edge washcloths and cuff hats. But I’ve never had a knitting expert examine my stitches before, so that made me knit a little slower than usual to make sure each stitch was as close to perfect as possible.

I am using the required worsted weight yarn in a cream color. I purchased it from Unwind Yarn House ( They were at Stitches Midwest, and I liked the feel of their yarns. The kind I purchased is Timothy Street, and has wonderful definition. Each stitch can be seen, which exactly suits my needs for this project.

Debbie's washcloth

The edging of this washcloth I made last Christmas is seed stitch, which keeps it from rolling. Seed stitch may be an easy stitch, but I thought I’d learn a bit more about its origins if I could. Thanks to the internet, anything can be found. My first stop was Here I found out that it is made by working multiples of 2 stitches. Either an odd number of stitches in each row, working k1, p1 for each row (this was the requirement of my swatch) or alternate even number of stitch rows k1, p1 and p1, k1. Most knitters know this already. 

What I didn’t know was it is also called the “British or Irish Moss Stitch”. The Tricksy Knitter website ( also calls it the rice stitch.

The dense fabric this stitch creates (no matter what you call it) is very useful, but apparently it isn’t that interesting because every site basically said the same thing.

I’m glad the questions that have to be answered aren’t about the history or uniqueness of the seed, moss or rice stitch.


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Master Monday #2

This week I read through the questions for the TKGA Hand Knitting Master’s Program Level 1 to see what I need to be looking for to answer them fully as I make progress on the program this year.

Question 1 has you look at the yarn band to collect information to determine gauge, and various other info. My yarn band gave me less information than many others I’ve used. It read: “Worsted, Afghan, Aran; 16-20 stitches per inch on 4.5 – 5.5 mm needles”.

This was a short story  compared to the sagas on some bands. Sometimes you learn when and where the fibers were collected, washing instructions in several languages and pictures and in once case the name of the alpaca whose haircut allowed me to knit. (pic from google images:

I’ve downloaded the “Standard Yarn Wt System” to give me all the info I needed to reference regarding yarns. I’ve been knitting for over 40 years and learned new things reading the info on their the Craft Yarn Council website.

They have advice, answers and classes for new knitters and crocheters and seasoned veterans. You get discounts on classes they offer with your TKGA membership.

So I’ve bookmarked the site on my computer for reference during and after the Master’s.

I am going to make swatch #1 this week and answer the associated questions. I’ll let you know how it goes on Monday.

Meantime, I had to share the coolest yarn holder my son bought me for Christmas this year. He was with his wife at a craft show and saw these handmade yarn bowls, thought of me and now I think of him every evening when I knit or crochet after dinner 🙂

yarn pot

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Master Monday #1

All programs, degrees, certificates and other achievements have to begin at the beginning. That is what I have done with The Knitting Guild of American’s Master Hand Knitter’s Program Level 1. Actually, my beginning began last year when I downloaded the instructions and bought the yarn. I was rather unorganized and not surprisingly let life get in the way of completion.

This year I requested and received the updated instructions and reread them to freshen up my memory. I am taking this program slow and steady and hopefully to completion this year. So far, I’ve read said instructions and wound the yarn. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we are only 7 days into the new year and it is further than I was last year. LOL

I’ve decided to update my progress every Monday. Hence the name of this post. By #52 I have the highest hopes of saying my notebook was sent to the committee for consideration. Come along with my craziness and we’ll see where it leads.

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Conductive thread – creepy or cool? You decide

Yesterday I picked up a Knit Picks catalog that came in the mail on Saturday. I certainly don’t need any yarn, needles or patterns. Or do I….

Remember my quest to find weird, odd and eclectic yarns? They had spools of conductive thread. By using it in the fingertips of your hand knit gloves, you can use your phone, e-reader, iPad or any other touch screen electronic you can think of. Interesting bordering on very strange.

I’ve seen these kind of fingertips on gloves available in stores, but didn’t imagine I could make them. Ah. Therein begins my argument with myself.

“You certainly don’t need this!”

“Yeah, but it is only $4.99! How could you not buy it?”

While myself was arguing with me, I decided to check this out a bit more on the internet. I found this stuff all over! Where have a been for the last couple of years? I found spools of this stuff, little “dots”, giant spools, gloves as cheap as $4.99. Please enjoy the irony with me. I know making the gloves will cost a lot more, but I fully intend to make them out of that Bison Yarn that cost 5 times the cost of purchased gloves. I can’t explain it if you are a non-knitter, no offense intended. If you are a knitter you are nodding your head, yep, you’d knit them instead of buy them too. I dunno. Apparently I have lived under a rock because this stuff has been out for at least a few years. You can even buy it at Walmart if they have a fabric department. I am seriously looking for some of this over the weekend.

My only decision will be gloves like a grown up or mittens that I prefer? My fingers get lonely in gloves, what can I say? But I did find a really nice free pattern for them here:

Anyway, I have to get some of this thread. I figure it is not like purchasing yarn for a new project because it is just an add on to one of the projects I was planning to make anyway. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.


Filed under Knitting, Knitting Techniques

Losing Ground and Making Up Time

This has been a crazy week, but lots of progress on my projects. The project that I lost ground on was the mystery shawl knit a long because I was so far off on my count, I frogged the entire piece and started again. It was unfixable. There are four sections of the pattern in the first clue. I was supposed to have 17 stitched in each section, one stitch dividing each section and and two stitches on each end. In each of my sections, I had 19, 17, 18, 19 respectively.

Looking back, I figured out what I did wrong. I am not used to using lace weight yarn. because it is so fine, the last stitch was pulled over the needle, therefore I was making a stitch on the beginning of some of the rows. This was enough to skew the pattern and my stitch count. Live, learn and rip out to start again.

I also got some different stitch markers. I was using very small brass markers that had the tiniest opening that would not have mattered with heavier yarn and bigger needles. They were not good for this shawl. After fighting with them, I read on that some people were using the smaller, closed rings used for jewelry making. I got them at Hobby Lobby for less than $1.50 and they are working wonderfully! So twenty rows and counting.

The snowflake afghan is coming along 26 of 59 squares are completed and sewn into strips. This is for the Ravelry group I joined in January. The idea is to make any granny square pattern that you want, one square a week. By the end of the year you have a complete afghan. I am only 12 behind – actually 14 behind because this is a Christmas gift. I am not allowing myself to start another project to take to work until I am at least caught up. If I don’t have too many meetings, that should be in approximately 3 weeks.

Pr socks – I found a really cool pattern from watching Knitty Gritty on TV. I am going to make Simple Master Coriolis Pattern by Cat Bordhi I am really excited about these, they are different from other’s I’ve made.

My alpaca hat is still a ball of yarn, neatly wound.

Here’s a picture of the completed shawl and my friend. 🙂

Master’s program – I received the yarn and it is really nice. The winding hasn’t been done as anticipated, but will be hopefully before the weekend is over. I am going to put the Master’s on hold until at least the holiday knitting and crocheting is done. A woman can only do so much.

The last baby blanket will probably preempt my hat due to necessity. The baby is due in a couple of weeks.

Last but not least, the Bear’s scarf is complete! I washed and blocked it this morning, and it is ready for Christmas morning.

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Finishing Touches on Finished Shawl

Done, finished, completed..need I go on? The dreaded shawl turned out great! Once I found a pattern that I really liked (“Sunny Days” in Knit Prayer Shawls by Leisure Arts), yarn I could work with (Brown Sheep)  in my stash and got busy, it got done.

Knit Prayer Shawls

Now for the hardest part. Finishing the finished product takes time.

Weaving in the ends. *heavy sigh*. The detailed yoke was a snap. The feather and fan design worked out with minimal frogging. I admit counting isn’t my strong suit, especially when I am at work chatting. When I figured out that every fourth row was lace (duh) and the next three were purl, knit, purl that was only one row that had to be completed at home. So, if I that row at home, then the next three could be done on break and lunch hours at work.

That increased my productivity the last few weeks tenfold!

Then came the edging. After completing the five rows at the bottom of the shawl and binding off, the instructions said not to break off the yarn. The next step was to pick up stitches all along the side, then collar, then down the other side to the bottom. I tried to talk myself out of doing this. I could easily crochet an edging. But the look I was after was an entire knit shawl, not a knit shawl with a crocheted edge.

Honestly, it took way less time to pick up all of the stitches than I thought it would. I must pick them up weirdly though, because when I knit them, it is like they are twisted on the needle. I do this habitually, so it wasn’t that big of a deal that I slip each one off before I knit it slip back on the left-handed needle then knit as usual. Does anyone else do this? Should I leave it alone and knit it the way it has been picked up? Can someone tell me how to pick up stitches differently so I won’t have to slip them off and turn them around? I dunno.

Getting back to the ordeal ahead of me – weaving in the ends – the best way I’ve found is the duplicate stitch method. You literally weave it back and forth either on the knit side or the purl side mimicking the stitches of your piece and you can’t see the ends. You have to leave a small tail on the wrong side so it doesn’t pop out, but when you block it, the wool tends to tighten up and hold it where you left it.

There are lots of sites on the internet explaining much more clearly that I can. This is one of my favorites.

There are videos, pictures and explanations, whatever kind of instruction you like is available.

Since we are talking about finishing a knit piece, we may as well carry on to blocking. I used to think blocking was a waste of time. I’ll admit right now that was crazy. Not every piece of knitting and/or crocheting has to be blocked. Blankets, afghans, mittens, hats, some scarves… use your own discretion. But when making a lace piece, or a sweater, shawl or even a scarf that doesn’t showcase the stitches or is wonky, blocking is the way to go.

It isn’t difficult, but does take a little time. I like the wet blocking. Use a nice wool soak according to the package directions.

Carefully roll up your knitting in a thick absorbent towel and squeeze as much excess water out of it as possible. Then carefully use T-pins or blocking wires to shape your piece to the proper size on a board or mat.

I like to use those foam interlocking mats that are about a foot square. They sell them on knitting sites, or you can pick up colorful interlocking mats at a craft store (I got mine at Michael’s) that are actually made for kids. You can make the base as small or as large as you need to.

There are several methods. The one I like least is steam blocking. The idea is to use T-pins to hold your knitting in the correct shape/size and carefully hold the steam iron over it being careful not to touch it or you might flatten the stitches you are trying to define. You an also steam block by place a damp cloth (cotton is often used) on your knitting and carefully steam iron over the top of it.The key again is not pushing too hard or the stitches will be smooshed. Lastly spritz blocking. It is wet blocking in reverse. You pin the knit item to the blocking board, then spritz it with water until it is damp. I’ve used this method, it is ok for smaller items like scarves. But a larger item is easier to block using wet blocking.

Stitch definition and edges look so much more professional after blocking, not to mention the drape of the fabric.  It also makes it easier to sew the individually blocked pieces together. There a so many websites to choose from that tell you more than you’d ever want to know about blocking. One of my favorites is from

This link will give you tips on all types of fiber, not just wool.


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